If Bruins don’t win Game 7 this was all a waste

Matt Kalman
June 10, 2019 - 8:38 pm

Chris Wagner gave his right arm for the Bruins to get here.

Kevan Miller gave his larynx, his hand and possibly his knee to help the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final, although his on-ice contributions ended in the regular season because of injury.

Zdeno Chara sacrificed his jaw and continues to put his oral health at risk ever since taking a Brayden Schenn deflected shot to the mouth in Game 4. The Boston captain has continued to play through the pain, wearing what’s essentially a fencing mask, and he’s fended off the desire of the St. Louis players to treat his face like a pinata.

It’s been a hell of a ride. No one knows what the rest of the Bruins are hiding in terms of ailments and injuries.

Whether their collective backs have been against the wall, like in the Toronto series and now the Cup Final, or they’ve been on the cusp of a clinch, like against Columbus and Carolina, the Bruins have gone 5-0 in potential elimination games.

Know what all these things mean if the Bruins don't win a sixth elimination game in Game 7 on Wednesday at TD Garden? Zilch.

In the aftermath of the Bruins’ series-saving Game 6 victory, defenseman Charlie McAvoy unloaded three days’ worth of pent-up feelings in describing the lead up to and his participation in the win.

“The emotions involved, like … crap, it’s a lot. [Our] backs are against the wall and you have so many mixed emotions,” he said. “You do whatever it takes, this is your dream to win this thing, and when your backs are against the wall and you know they’re one away, it hurts a little bit. But I think I got a different perspective when our guys stepped up and just talked and it was an element of honesty to it, about being in this position and knowing that if we just do our jobs, we’re family, we believe in each other and we all love each other. And just the thought of it being over tonight was terrifying … I mean we’ve come all this way and we really, we come together when it matters and I think tonight was just a good example of that. And we’re thankful, we’re blessed with a chance to play in Game 7 now. So it’s going to be the same thing. It’s a lot, it’s a roller coaster and you just got to ride it.”

This roller coaster could come to a crashing halt if the Bruins don’t duplicate their Game 6 performance in front of the home crowd. That means from Tuukka Rask through the lineup to the fourth line and the third defense pair, the Bruins have to play the desperate game they didn’t play in Game 5 of this series, or Game 5 of the first-round Toronto series, or Game 3 of the Columbus second-round series.

That they haven’t only played their best hockey when on the cusp of elimination – and that aforementioned 5-0 record in knockout games is proof of that – is a positive heading into Game 7. The Bruins should be less likely to be complacent with the home-ice advantage and less likely to get caught continuing to revel in the Game 6 win.

“Regardless of what’s happened, we put it behind us and we move forward. That’s the mentality of this team, and that’s why we’ve been resilient all season, not just in playoffs,” defenseman Torey Krug said Monday.

There’s no other way to put this: the Bruins deserve this win more than the Blues. Talent-wise they hold the edge. They played a full season, residing in the top four or five of the regular season for much of the year. When the Blues were last in the NHL on Jan. 1, the Bruins were third in the Atlantic Division, fifth in the Eastern Conference. Boston didn’t need a miracle turnaround over the season’s second half to salvage its season.

In terms of life and limb, the Blues have hardly sacrificed. Vince Dunn missed a few weeks with his own facial injury. He might still be playing through it, but based on on-ice protection alone it seems dwarfed by Chara’s injured. Robert Thomas has been in and out of the lineup with what could be a wrist injury. Ho hum.

Only one Blues player has been to the Final before: David Perron with last year’s losing Vegas Golden Knights. They haven’t had to go through the ringer before the way the remaining members of the 2013 Bruins did. Remember when Brad Marchand said before this series that the loss to Chicago has stuck with him more than the 2011 Cup championship? That’s a feeling the Bruins know and the Blues don’t, yet. That’s a feeling that Marchand has to continue to share with his younger teammates, players that despite all the warnings might still feel as though getting back to the Final will be an almost annual occurrence.

It’s taken the Bruins six years to get back here. We know this group might not be together six more months, never mind six more years.

Boston had to miss the playoffs twice, change coaches and turnover a lot of personnel to make it back. If the Bruins want to make sure those efforts were worth it, guarantee they’ll be more than just familial bonds that link this team in the future, and prevent those 2013 feeling from infected the entire roster, they’ll win Game 7.

Or else it was all a waste.

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